Russian Roulette or Mastectomy: My Personal Journey

I’m in the war of my life, at the door of my life, got no choice but to fight til it’s done.
War of My Life, John Mayer

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve decided to repost a series of blogs I wrote last year (2013) about my breast cancer journey. Writing about the process helped me cope with the feelings I had before, during and especially after my surgeries, and I received several emails from women going through the same or similar experience.

My hope in reposting these blogs is that more women whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer will know that they are not alone. And so, without further ado, here is the start of of my journey:

I love John Mayer. More correctly, I love John Mayer’s music. I mean, he’s not hard on the eyes but he is commitment phobic and, well, I’m a happily married woman. But his music is bluesy and soulful and it speaks to me.

Last Monday, as I drove the 55 miles from home to work, I heard the song War of My Life, and while I’ve probably heard the song a hundred times, this time, it spoke to me. And I realized that, since I received the results of my breast biopsy on April 30th (see I’m a Noble Warrior, I’ve Got This), I’ve been engaged in the war of my own life.

Here’s how it started. On Monday evening, April 29th, I picked up a voicemail from my doctor. “Great news on the biopsy, Suzanne. No cancer. I’ll call you tomorrow to check in.” I heaved a small sigh of relief (I didn’t really expect it to be otherwise) and went to bed.

The next morning as I’m driving to work, the phone rings. I answer it (using my built-in, hands-free setup), and it’s my doctor. “Hi Dr. McClure,” I said, “thanks for the great news on my biopsy.” “Yeah, about the biopsy,” she begins, “it’s true that you don’t have a cancer, but they did find something called Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia.”

“Atypical what?” Turns out that Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia (ALH) is a pre-cancerous condition (in the milk lobes) which may or may not become cancer. “So that means there is surgery in your future. An excisional biopsy (lumpectomy) at a minimum. Unless you decide to do something prophylactically.”

“Wait, what?” I said. “Prophylactically? As in, mastectomy?” By the time I pulled into the parking garage at work I felt like I was living in a parallel universe. And then, when I’d gathered my wits about me, I set out to learn more about my condition. And when I’d gathered all the facts, I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. Here’s why:

1. A person with no risk factors for breast cancer has a 10% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. People with ALH have a 4-5 time greater risk of getting breast cancer. So instead of 10%, my risk is now 40-50%.

2. Women between the ages of 45-55 (I’m 52) with ALH have the highest future risk of developing breast cancer, making my risk higher than 40-50%.

3. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer have an even higher future risk of developing breast cancer.

I have a strong family history of breast cancer.

In 2007, at the age of 51, my sister Diane was diagnosed with ALH. Before undergoing a lumpectomy to remove more tissue, she had a breast MRI which revealed nothing out of the ordinary. The lumpectomy revealed that she had cancer, and that they did not get clear margins (meaning there was cancer in the perimeter of the sample).

After undergoing another MRI, the radiologist saw something in the other breast that looked like it could maybe be something suspicious after all. A second lumpectomy was performed on the other breast which also revealed cancer with no clear margins.

It became clear that my sister’s best option was bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (also known as radical mastectomy). The pathology of the tissue removed revealed hundreds of tiny tumors in both breasts that were not seen on imaging.

Me and my sister, Pamela (and her husband)

Me and my sister, Pamela (and her husband)

Three months later, at the age of 49, my sister Pamela found a lump. A mammogram revealed nothing unusual. An MRI revealed a tumor. Deciding on the more conservative lumpectomy, the pathology revealed two tumors, side by side: one tumor was cancer, the other was ALH.

Though both of my sisters tested negative for the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 and BRCA2), a woman who has more than one immediately family member (mother, sister, daughter) who has had breast cancer but tested negative on the BRCA 1 and 2 test, has about a 40% chance of developing breast cancer in her life.

So, what does all that mean for me? In terms of risk, I’m not sure. It isn’t as simple as adding the risk of having ALH to the risk of having strong family history together. The truth lies somewhere in between and every medical professional I’ve spoken to, from surgeons to oncologists to genetic counselors, seems to have a different answer.

But the bottom line for me was this. Whatever the actual risk percentage is, it is too high for me.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

 

And so, after carefully considering all options—weighing the pros and cons of each—I have decided that, rather than playing Russian Roulette with my life and opt for the most minimally invasive option (lumpectomy), I’ve decided to eliminate my lifetime risk (as well as a lifetime of fear) by having a bilateral mastectomy (I prefer even numbers and don’t wish to be known as the Uniboober).

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

But I didn’t come by this decision quickly or easily or without a lot of struggle (I’ve swung to both sides of the pendulum so many times it’s made me dizzy), and until last week, I wasn’t 100% certain I’d made the right decision. And then, last week, events unfolded that crystallized my decision. Here’s what happened:

Last Monday, while discussing my situation with a coworker/friend, she said, “You know, Suzanne, it seems to me that you’ve been given a warning sign. Maybe your mother is trying to tell you that she couldn’t stand to see another one of her babies suffer the way your other two sisters did.”

That night, I broke down and cried for the first time since this began (which is shocking for me, I’m a crier). Big gulping sobs that shook my whole body. As I crawled into bed that night I snuggled the teddy bear that my mom had crocheted for me when I was eight twenty-eight and when I held him, I felt her love. And then I talked to her. “Mom, I need for you to tell me what to do. And you need to pretty much hit me over the head with the answer.”

Tuesday I saw the breast surgeon who told me that ALH is tricky because, when it becomes invasive cancer, it isn’t normally seen on imaging (as in both my sisters cases).

Wednesday night my sister Pamela called. I hadn’t spoken to her since the day of my diagnosis and I didn’t know which way on the pendulum she would swing. When I finished telling her of my struggle to make a decision she said, “Well Suz, it’s a no brainer. Have the surgery. All of us Whitfield girl’s should have it. I wish I’d done it myself.”

And in her words I heard my mother’s voice, as clearly as if she’d been standing in front of me (hands on hips and wagging a finger at me). And so my decision was made.

On Thursday I woke up feeling lighter than I had in a long time.

On Friday I spent the morning communing with butterflies (I simply adore them) at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. That afternoon I met with the plastic surgeon who will be doing my reconstruction, and he was funny and kind (seriously, his name is actually Dr. Kind) and it further cemented my decision.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images

And finally, as I sat in rush hour traffic on the freeway heading home, I kid you not, a white butterfly flittered in front of my window, pausing for several seconds before taking off.

In that moment, I knew my mother was speaking to me. Good job, Suz. You made the right choice.

And so, sometime soon (I’m trying to plan around the John Mayer concert on July 23rd) I will be having a bilateral, nipple sparing mastectomy with reconstruction.

What about you? What “war” have you had to fight, and how did you go about making your decision? I want to know.

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Date with a Duke: Q&A with Sara Ramsey

Sara_Ramsey-200x300My guest today is Sara Ramsey, award-winning author of the Muses of Mayfair historical romance series. Her next book, Duke of Thorns is due out tomorrow! Sara can usually be found drinking overly-artistic lattes, obsessing over the latest fashion trends, drinking champagne, or working on her next Regency historical romance. She lives in San Francisco, California, but she left her heart in Iowa.

So, what does a day in the life of Sara Ramsey, glamorous romance novelist, look like?
Much less glamorous than one would expect. First, there’s the whole day job thing. Need I say more? I usually write for an hour in the morning before heading off to work. As deadlines get closer, I also write in the evenings – usually over wine at my favorite wine bar. The staff at the cafes I go to know me so well now that they just keep pouring and leave me alone – although one of them swatted my hand with a newspaper last week when I was checking Twitter instead of typing on my manuscript :)

Tell me about your writing process? Mac, PC or pen and ink?
I write on my Mac laptop, preferably with champagne in hand, conjuring up what I imagine I would say if a dashing rake asked me to dance. But if I’m feeling stuck with the story, I switch to paper and ink – preferably using a lush fountain pen, but anything will do if I’m really in the a bind. There’s something about not having to stare at a blinking, demanding cursor that makes it easier to brainstorm, even though it’s slower to have to type up what I write after.

Sara Ramsey Book Cover

How did you get the idea for your latest novel, DUKE OF THORNS?
The hero of Duke of Thorns is actually the villain from the last Muses of Mayfair book. The Duke of Thorington very nearly stole the show in that book, and I knew that he needed to get his comeuppance (preferably at the hands of a very self-assured woman). But the new series, The Heiress Games, is centered around a trio of female cousins who are competing for an inheritance – a little bit Bachelorette, but with all my favorite Regency tropes thrown in (house parties! arranged marriages! compromising situations!). Thorington’s heroine, Callie, is an American privateer – certainly not the kind of woman Thorington could ever imagine himself falling for…

If you lived in the Regency period, would you be a bejeweled member of the ton, the charming but poor relation, or a maid below stairs, and why?
Bejeweled member of the ton, obviously! The charming but poor relation has some upsides, since she can always come out of her shell and surprise everyone. But given the general lack of sanitation, the absurdly hard work required to keep a house clean, and the already-difficult lives of women during that period in general, I’d say the more jewels the better :) Not that money ever buys happiness, but I think I’d have a better shot at happiness if I wasn’t spending sixteen hours a day scrubbing pots.

And lastly, if you could rub a magic lamp and a genie would come out and grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?
1) security for my family and friends, 2) a wonderful man to sweep me off my feet (Prince Harry would be an option), and 3) that I would always look refreshed even after pulling an all-nighter writing (okay, that’s a little vain, but I’m sticking with it :)

You can find out more about Sara Ramsey at sararamsey.com. You can also find her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook. Her books are available on all major ebook retailers, and you can find all the buy links on her website here.

Sara has graciously agree to donate a copy of her brand new realease (ebook only), Duke of Thorns, to one lucky commenter! So don’t be shy!

 

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From Renegade Writer to Publisher

My guest today, Mary Chase Comstock, is the founder of Renegade Publications, a boutique publishing company that represents “novels of romance, humor and intrigue—like the ones you used to love.”

Mary is here today to tell you about her journey from renegade writer to publisher.

And she’s looking for a few writers to represent!

And so, without further ado, here’s Mary.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

A couple of years ago when I was filling in the information for my first Kindle book, The Fool’s Journey, I came to a field marked “Publisher” and paused. I didn’t have a publisher, (though not for lack of trying!).

The Fool’s Journey was the book of my heart, and even though I’d been traditionally published as a Regency author for several years, I couldn’t get editors or even agents to take this one on. It had won contests and a loyal contingency of fans wanted to see it published. Besides, I’d worked on it for 15 years and I was tired of it gathering dust. I needed to send it off into the world so I could get on with other projects. That’s what led me to self-publishing, something I’d always scoffed at before. It was also the first time I would make significant money on my writing.

“Publisher” was an optional piece of information in the online form, but I typed the first thing that came into my head anyway, RenegadeBooks. It said something about me as a writer—I was a renegade. I’d never really believed that editors knew what the market wanted. In fact, referring to readers as a “market” was a little insulting.

Over the next several months, I followed Fool’s Journey with my backlist of Regencies as the old rights reverted. I enjoyed tweaking the books, designing the covers, learning about marketing.

Then I started thinking about other writers I knew who were renegades too. Renegade Publications was about to be born. My friend and critique group member, Margaret O’Neil, had written several great romances, but editors and agents didn’t want her stories. They broke the rules.

Margaret was my first author, with Million Dollar Wife. We worked together to get her books ready for publication. I designed the covers and managed her promotions. Then, she began to find a monthly income coming her way. Next came Carol Duncan Perry’s backlist of Arkansas-set romantic suspense, and I’ve just added Nadine Miller to my group with her backlist of traditional Regencies.

Finally, it occurred to me that I was onto something.  Books were selling. I was taking 10% and liking it. My writers liked getting personal attention. I started thinking about what defined this minuscule publishing house:

RenegadeBooks is small.
I am the only staff member, so small is necessary. I also teach writing, wrangle two dogs and acclimate to having my retired husband at home.

Small is good.
I like being able to respond to my writers immediately, sometimes several times a day. Their writing is important and so is their input.

RenegadeBooks is a little different, but so are its authors.
–Our authors are talented writers.
–They either have a backlist of traditionally published books, or completed novels they—and others—believe in.
–They want to be a part of the publishing process, but they don’t want to deal with the technology.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chase Comstock.

Our books reflect traditional romance sensibility.
Our books certainly are not prudish, but love is at their center, not sex.  If there are sex scenes, they are central to the plot. If you want to know more, read Peter Jordan’s Marriage by Margaret O’Neil.

I’m finding there are a lot of readers who appreciate a little old fashioned romance, with a little sizzle in all the right places. I’m interested in adding a few more writers who fit the bill—four to five this year and more later. If you’re interested, visit our website:

http://www.renegadepublications.com/

About Mary:
Mary is the author of five Regency Romances. She took a break from writing to vanquish breast cancer, and, fully recovered, is working on five books in a variety of genres using a visual mapping technique. Her newest book, The Fool’s Journey, is a contemporary romantic suspense. Mary holds a Ph.D .in Literacy, Language and Culture, and has taught writing classes at all levels. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her Scottish Terrier, Irish Wolfhound and Brazilian husband. Visit her blog at: http://nulla-mary.blogspot.com/.

What about you? If you enjoy reading romance, what heat level do you prefer? If you write romance, what heat level do you write?

 

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Give a Bear, Save a Life

Last week I declared September to be National Teddy Bear Month. This week, to keep Teddy’s spirit alive, I want to tell you about an organization that is near and dear to my heart. It’s called the Mother Bear Project.

Founded in 2003 by Amy Berman, the Mother Bear Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children, primarily those affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of hand-knit or crocheted bears.

Mother Bear Project Use This Pic

Photo used with permission from Mother Bear Project.

The simple gift of a hand-knit bear with a tag signed by the knitter has touched children who have nearly nothing in the world with the message that they are loved by someone halfway around the world.

Photo used with permission from Mother Bear Project.

Photo used with permission from Mother Bear Project.

To give you an example of how much these bears mean to the kids who receive them, here is a note from a Teacher in South Africa to Mother Bear:

One little boy risked his life to rescue his bear.  He told his sister, ‘I have to get my bear.  The heart on it means someone loves me.’ 

Their house was destroyed minutes later by torrential rains.

How You Can Help:

Knit a Bear: 
All bears are made from the same knit or crochet pattern. They are made from a World War II-era pattern that was chosen because the bears are lightweight and easy to send.

Each pattern will include a tag for you to sign your first name and attach to your bear’s wrist before sending it back.

Mother Bear will sew a red felt heart on your bear and ship it to one of our partners for distribution to the children.

Sponsor a Bear: 
Bear sponsorships are available for $10 per bear. Sponsorships allow you to send a bear to Africa even if you don’t knit and are a wonderful way to honor a friend or loved one. The bear’s tag will carry the name of your choice.

In addition, Mother Bear Project will send an acknowledgement to you or your honored recipient to let them know a bear has been sent in their name.

Other Ways to Help: Make donations, donate items needed, or volunteer.

To learn more about the Mother Bear Project, visit their website at www.MotherBearProject.org.

To learn more about Amy Berman and how the Mother Bear Project got its start, CLICK HERE to read an interview with the Huffington Post.

Though I’m presently busy with a full-time job, raising my family and writing novels, I do plan to take up knitting (or crocheting) when I retire just for the purpose of making bears for Mother Bear Project.

In the meantime, to show my passion for Teddy Bears and to support this organization, for everyone who reads this blog and makes a bear for the Mother Bear Project, I will gift you a copy of my new release (Kindle version only), THE MANY LIVES OF JUNE CRANDALL. For each book gifted, I will make a financial donation to the Mother Bear Project. Simply email me at: Suzanne@suzannevince.com, attach a photo of yourself with your bear, and provide me a valid email address.

What about you? Do you have a cause? What motivates you to help make the world a better place?

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Study: 25% of Men Travel With Teddy Bears

Last week I wrote a special post about Teddy Bears (Ode to the Teddy Bear). As it happened, the blog posted on National Teddy Bear Day. I had no idea there was such a day, and the timing of my post was purely accidental.

Or was it? Perhaps synchronicity was at play.

Regardless, I was so thrilled to know that there was such a day to honor our beloved Bears that I decided we should celebrate them ALL MONTH LONG. And so, I hereby declare September to be National Teddy Bear Month.

To continue the celebration, I decided to repost one of my favorite (and yours) blogs from last year. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

In 2010, CNN reported that the British hotel chain Travelodge did a study and determined that 25% of men take teddy bears on the road with them when they travel for business. Wow, I thought, and how many more actually sleep with them every night but are just too embarrassed to travel with one?

When I read the survey, I shared this information with my husband, who promptly asked how that information was obtained. “Did they have the housekeepers search the rooms of their guests??”

“I don’t know, the article didn’t say,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“I was just wondering if men actually display them on their beds, or if they hide them in their suitcases and only take them out at night?”

I grinned.  This survey information really seemed to upset him. “I don’t know,” I said. “But you might want to take that lock for your suitcase next time.  Just in case, I mean.”

He nodded thoughtfully. And that was the end of the conversation. At least until recently. Earlier this year I informed him that I was going to start my own website, complete with a blog. And like a typical man, he asked “why?” I looked at him with that look that we wives give our husbands when they say stupid stuff like that to us, and calmly explained my ideas and my vision.

And then I thought about how I could use my website to embarrass him and make him pay for asking the “why” question. And then it hit me. I would write an article about the men who travel with their teddy bears, and tell the world that he is one of them! So there it is folks. And its name is BB, which used to stand for Blue Boy, but since my sister re-stuffed him a couple of years back, he has been renamed Buff Body.

Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

I knew there would be repercussions for exposing this information about him because he is an Officer in the Military (God bless our soldiers), and he would never want any of the “guys” to know he sleeps with a snuggly, but I decided it would be worth the risk. Besides, as long as none of his shipmates, as he sometimes calls them, read this blog, his secret will be safe.

And then, being the kind, loving and supportive guy that my husband is, he smiled and said “That’s great honey, but first of all, you know that is a heinous lie, and second, if you dare tell such a grievous lie in your blog, you might just find Timmy missing one of these days.”

*Gasps*

Timmy. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Timmy. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

“You wouldn’t!  Not Timmy!” I admit to having more than a few stuffed animals, and Timmy is the most special one.  My mother made him and since she passed away 12 years ago, every time I miss her, I just give him a squeeze and can I feel her love.

My love for stuffed animals started at a young age.

My love for stuffed animals started at a young age.

Timmy is so well loved that he looks like I’ve had him since I was 8 instead of 28.  But I’m not embarrassed to tell you this because I am, after all, a chick.  And it’s cool for chicks to have stuffed animals. Guys? Not so much.

But I decided I just couldn’t take a chance on anything happening to Timmy, so here it is folks, I made the whole story up (except the part about the actually survey, that part is true).  It was all a cruel lie (but fun, don’t you think?). BB does in fact belong to our daughter. But don’t worry folks, Timmy has been removed to a secure location, just in case.

What do you think about men who sleep with teddy bears? I want to know!

 

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It Takes a Tribe (to Publish a Book)

To write a book is a solitary endeavor. It must be so. Sure, writers have sources that help fine-tune their work, but it is the writer—and her alone—who must write the words.

But writing a book, if it is to be published (and really, what purpose does a book serve if not shared with the world?), is just the first step in a daunting and seemingly never-ending process that must happen before your book is delivered into the hands of readers.

Fork in road coutesy of usda.gov

The first step in the process is deciding whether to try the traditional publishing route (in which approximately 2-3 out of every 10,000 manuscripts will be accepted and will deliver royalties in the neighborhood of 7.5% per paperback book sold and 20% for every ebook), or self-publish (which provides for royalties of up to 70%).

Fork in Road Multiple

For a number of reasons, I chose the self-publishing route, and suddenly a long list of tasks and decisions lay before me. I sat down to list them all out and realized I had no idea where to begin. My head began to spin, and after hours of wracking my brain, I ended up with a To Do list that looked something like this:

To Do List

Because I’d joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, I had a fabulous critique partner, but I knew I would need beta readers, an editor, and a cover artist. I would need reviewers, a manuscript converter, and a whole host of things I probably hadn’t thought of. Oh yeah, and a social platform.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

I’m an introvert by nature, and you want me to go out into cyberspace to promote myself and pimp my work? Eeww, no way! That just feels…wrong. And scary. And so not like me.

To say that I felt alone and overwhelmed is an understatement. So much so that I actually shelved the idea of publishing my first book and wrote another one. And then another.

And then over dinner one night with my critique partner, Patricia Rickrode (writing as Jansen Schmidt), we began to talk about publishing. I lamented, “I know I want to self-publish, but it takes a bloody village to produce a book. And I have no idea where to start.”

“Then join the Tribe,” Patricia said. “That’s how I got started blogging and doing social media.”

I blinked. Twice. “The Tribe?”

“Yeah, the WANA Tribe,” Patricia said.

WANA stands for We Are Not Alone.  The WANA Tribe’s motto is:

Creativity cannot thrive on its own. Genius needs help, support, and love. Your family doesn’t get you? They no longer have to. WE TOTALLY GET YOU!

A motto that still brings tears to my eyes! Finally, someone who gets me. ME!

“But what is WANA Tribe, exactly?” you might be asking.

Founded by WANA Mama Kristen Lamb, who has devoted her career to helping writers, WANA is a group of creatives sharing their knowledge and experience to help other creatives like you (and me). A “tribe” is a group, designed to discuss a specific topic. Here are just a few examples of current (active) tribes:

Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Christian Writers
YA Writers
Self-Publishers
Scrivener Users Unite!
Writing While Parenting
Social Marketing
Time Travelers

Additionally, WANA offers a host of classes, many of which I’ve taken. With instructors like Kristen Lamb, Marcy Kennedy and Lisa Hall-Wilson (just to name a few) I’m the proud owner of a blog (obviously, you’re reading it), an author Twitter account (which I actually know how to use now—thank you Marcy!) and a Facebook Author Page.

Through my fellow WANA’s I’ve found an editor, a cover artist, and someone to convert my manuscript to print and ebook formats (I figured out how to upload the files onto Amazon all by myself—YAY me!). And I found a tech guy who understands that I am a true technophobe and takes care of all my website maintenance—Jay Donovan (find him at www.techsurgeons.com).

So thank you, Kristen Lamb, you’re more than just our WANA Mama. You’re a mentor, a friend, and a true blessing to writers everywhere.

And thank you, Patricia Rickrode, for telling me about the Tribe.

To join WANA Tribe (membership is FREE!), CLICK HERE. Use #mywana to share your writing-related tweets.

For more about Kristen Lamb, and to read her informational motivational blog, CLICK HERE.

What about you? If you’re a self-published author, who has helped you in your journey to publication? Do you have any resources for others you’d like to share?

If you don’t write but love to read, was it surprising to learn about all the things indie authors have to manage in order to deliver their book to you?

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Dream BIG or Dream small, Just Dream!

Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality, and humorris designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feel damn good. Soulpancake

It’s Friday, and I’m serving up a little soul food. That is, food for your soul.

We all have goals and dreams, but sometimes we’re too shy or too embarrassed to speak them aloud.

In this short video, SoulPancake takes to the street and asks the question: What is your dream?

What about you? What dream do you have for your future?

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Dear Reader: How to Help Your Favorite Author

Without words, without writing and without books, there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity. Hermann Hesse

Dear Reader The-Girl-Reading-Book-Wallpaper

When I was a girl, I would curl up anywhere I could find a quiet spot (not easy to do with seven siblings) and flip through the pages of the latest Nancy Drew novel. Later, my mother introduced me to Danielle Steel and I tore through each new book with the anticipation of Christmas. And I’d feel the same letdown when I finished as I would on Christmas morning after all the gifts were opened and the anticipation was over.

Dear Reader Marilyn-Monroe-Phone-6

When I finished, I would call my friends and tell them about the book. If they were a good enough friend, I might even lend it to them.

Things were simpler in those days. In many ways. Not the least of which was being an author.

Back then, if an author was lucky enough to secure a contract with a major publishing house, their careers were made. They would write the book, send it to their publisher, and collect a fat advance check, then sit back and wait for the royalties to pour in while the publishing house handled the author’s publicity tours (which usually included book signings in major booksellers across the country).

Today, whether an author is traditionally or independently published (ie an “indie author”), we are tasked with sole responsibility to market our books and ourselves.

Dear Reader Space Suit

For first time novelists like myself, this can be a daunting task. And for introverts (like me), it can be an even scarier prospect. But if we are to succeed, we must step bravely into cyber space and invite new friends, like you, to read our work. And ask you to share it with your friends.

“But wait,” you say, “nobody uses an actual telephone anymore, so how do I spread the word?”

I’m glad you asked.

Dear Reader Girl with Iphone

It’s true, the medium by which we share information has certainly changed since I was a girl. This is the good news for authors and readers today. It allows us to connect with each other in ways we never could’ve imagined five years ago when I was a kid. Okay, twenty five years ago (or so).

Anyway, here are three ways that you can help:

Reviews Sell Books:
It’s true. They really do. When you read a book you love, write a review (on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other forum for book reviews). It doesn’t have to be a long one. “Dear Author, loved your book!” would suffice.

Tell Your Tweeps:
Shout it out on Social Media. Authors are happy to provide their Twitter handles (mine is @SuzanneWVince). Tell the universe about the great book you’ve just read. And Retweet (or Share on Facebook) when one of your friends shouts out.

Share the Love:
When you read a blog posting (like this one) that you enjoy, click the little share buttons at the bottom and spread the word to all your Facebook Friends or Twitter Peeps.

So go ahead, tell the world (and me) about the last great book you read! I’ll even start. The last amazing book I read was CHASING KATE, by Kelly Byrne.

Okay, your turn!

Photos via Google Images

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Ode to the Teddy Bear

New Teddy. Photo by Suzanne Vince.

New Teddy. Photo by Suzanne Vince.

While I was home recovering from surgery recently, I received a gift from my sister. It was a teddy bear. But not just any old teddy bear. This was a Vermont Teddy Bear. The Vermont Teddy Bear comes with a lifetime guarantee:

If anything should ever happen to your Bear, even if the family dog decides to make it his favorite toy, just send it back to us here at the Factory and we will nurse him or her back to health in our Bear Hospital at no charge. Talk about a great health care plan! If by chance your Bear was too badly injured with no hope of recovery, we will replace your Bear with a new one for FREE!

Finally, a teddy bear company truly understands the special place that a teddy bear holds in the hearts of kids everywhere. Even big kids. Like me.

Winnie the Pooh (and Piglet) and the books my sister used to read us. Photo by Suzanne Vince

Winnie the Pooh (and Piglet) and the books my sister used to read us. Photo by Suzanne Vince

I’m not sure where my love for teddy bears came from. When I was young, my oldest sister Nancy used to read Winnie the Pooh books to the three youngest girls in my family. We each had our own character (I was Piglet, the littlest one) and we’d speak in our little voices when reading our parts. Perhaps it started then.

Photo by Suzanne Vince

Photo by Suzanne Vince

Or maybe it was when my mother began making stuffed animals. She’d start with a few balls of yarn and a bag of stuffing, and she’d beam with pride every time she finished one.

Timmy. Photo by Suzanne Vince.

Timmy. Photo by Suzanne Vince.

I named the first one she made Timmy. And to this day, he is my most cherished possession. When I squeeze him, I can feel my mother’s love.

My love for stuffed animals started at a young age.

My love for stuffed animals started at a young age.

Or maybe it’s just something I was born with. My husband even tells me I was a Puppeteer in a previous life. Though I’m no ventriloquist, I have the ability to make people laugh even when they’re angry (especially then). Every night before bed when my daughter was little, I’d send her into fits of laughter just by bringing her stuffed animals to life.

“But…you’re all grown up now, Suzanne,” you might be thinking. “It’s time to put away such childish notions.”

A barrel of (sock) monkeys. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

A barrel of (sock) monkeys. Photo by Suzanne Whitfield Vince

Um, no. My love for Teddy Bears (I also love sock monkeys) is simply a part of me. One of the best parts. It’s the playful side of me that everyone should have. It’s what keeps us young at heart. It keeps us from taking ourselves (and life) too seriously. Without teddy bears, life would be lonely.

And apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way:

Ode to Teddy Man and Teddy

Photo via Google images.

This man is offering a $500 reward for the loss of his 47 year-old bear. To read the story, CLICK HERE

Image via teddybearlife.com

Image via teddybearlife.com

This Website is devoted exclusively to the adventures of an entire Teddy family.

And this this wikiHOW tells you how to make the perfect life for your teddy bear in twelve easy steps.

What about you? What makes you feel young and playful?

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House Party and an Author Q&A

 

Jansen Schmidt QA Blot2

Hey, ya’ll. I’m over at my friend, author Jansen Schmidt’s place today tearing things up talking about writing AND GIVING AWAY A COPY OF MY NEW BOOK! Hop on over, drop a comment, and enter to win.

photo courtesy of google images

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
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